Tag Archives: death

60% higher risk of death from coronavirus variants, Ontario analysis finds: sources

Variants of the virus behind COVID-19 double the risk of someone being admitted to intensive care — and increase the risk of death by roughly 60 per cent — according to a new analysis of recent Ontario data from the province’s science advisory table, multiple sources tell CBC News.

A briefing note prepared by table members for the province, which is expected to be made public early next week, is based on an analysis of Ontario hospitalization and death data between December and March.

The analysis is expected to show that variants substantially increase the risk of serious illness when compared to the initial strain of SARS-CoV-2, including:

  • 60 per cent increased risk of hospitalization.
  • 100 per cent increased risk of being admitted to an ICU.
  • 60 per cent increased risk of death.

The data didn’t differentiate between variants, though most instances in Ontario right now are thought to be the B117 variant first identified in southeast England.

The Ontario figures were also pooled with data from Denmark and the U.K., two countries hit hard by B117, several sources explained, with local data falling in line with those earlier international findings. 

“Clearly, these variants are … more transmissible — so you’re more likely to become infected if you’re exposed to the virus — and also, you’re more likely to be admitted to hospital and to potentially die from the infection,” said critical care physician Dr. Kali Barrett, a member of the COVID-19 Modelling Collaborative, a separate group that was not involved in the science table’s upcoming briefing note.

Those health impacts are regardless of your age or pre-existing medical issues, she said of the international research.

People need to ‘protect themselves’

CBC News has not obtained a copy of the upcoming briefing note but did speak to multiple sources familiar with the expected contents. They asked not to be named because they’re not authorized to speak about the findings publicly.

Several sources said the analysis accounts for the fact that the age distribution of cases has shifted over time, and now skews younger, thanks in part to ongoing vaccinations of older populations.

It not only aligns with the growing body of international research suggesting variants such as B117 can have dire health impacts, but also the growing concern among Ontario clinicians that patients with COVID-19 are presenting both younger and more seriously ill.

“This is not just a disease that sort of strikes the older among us, it really strikes those in the prime of our lives,” Barrett said. “And we all have to be careful until everyone’s vaccinated.”

The overall risk of death from COVID-19 does remain fairly small, though it’s hard to pin down a precise figure given the evolving nature of the pandemic. 


Ontario residents attend a COVID-19 vaccination clinic in March. (Evan Mitsui/CBC)

Canada’s case fatality rate is currently thought to be roughly 2.4 per cent, but it’s a number based on confirmed cases and deaths among all age groups, which doesn’t reflect people who never got tested for the virus, and has proven to be a moving target depending on who’s falling ill and who’s getting vaccinated.

With variants now making up more than half of all recent COVID-19 cases in Ontario, experts stress it’s a risky numbers game: more people getting infected with a more dangerous variant could cause more serious illnesses and deaths, even among a younger, healthier cohort.

“Unless we have more stringent public health measures enacted,” Barrett said, “individuals really need to be doing everything they can at an individual level to protect themselves.”

Evidence points to higher risk

Health experts around the world have been ringing alarms for weeks about the potential for variants to take hold and wreak havoc.

As early as January, preliminary findings from the British government’s chief scientific adviser suggested B117 carries a higher risk of death than the original SARS-CoV-2 strain.

Two Ontario COVID-19 science advisory table members who spoke on the record to CBC News — though not about the expected briefing note — said the growing body of research that has since emerged suggests those early concerns were valid.

“It’s confounded by a bunch of different factors, including different ages, and different social situations, and how people have acquired the disease,” said Dr. Andrew Morris, an infectious disease specialist with Toronto’s Sinai Health System.

“But I think the majority — or the overwhelming majority — of evidence that we have right now is that it is substantially more, not only contagious, but severe in the disease that it causes.”

Infectious disease specialist Dr. Gerald Evans, a professor at Queen’s University’s faculty of medicine in Kingston, Ont., said without restrictions in place over the past few months, Ontario may have fared far worse in terms of serious cases and deaths. 

Restrictions loosening in various regions

Now, as Ontario is relaxing rules around indoor shopping, dining and other forms of gatherings in various areas, Evans and Morris both said some regions — and younger populations — largely spared in the first two waves of the pandemic could be harder hit the third time around.

“It’s hard for people to continue to just be holed up in their homes,” said Morris. “Perhaps the right thing to do is to just encourage people to spend as much of their time outdoors as possible.”

Indeed, in the Toronto area, for example, public health officials recently got their wish for a loosening of lockdown restrictions that now allow for outdoor dining

WATCH | Ontario allowing outdoor dining in grey zones:

Ontario will allow outdoor dining in grey-lockdown zones after modifying some of its COVID-19 restrictions. Restaurants in the red and orange zones of the province’s colour-coded guidelines will have their indoor dining capacity increased to 50 per cent — up to a maximum of 50 or 100 people, respectively. 2:56

But Morris cautioned that reopenings and reduced restrictions don’t necessarily mean there’s any reduced risk, though that might be the public perception. 

“In no way, shape or form should people be minimizing this pandemic. It still has legs, unfortunately,” Morris said.

“And where you may have had some estimate of risk to yourself six months ago, even three months ago — that estimated risk has now increased a bit.”

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CBC | Health News

Brazil has entered the deadliest phase of the pandemic so far, with the daily death toll exceeding 2,000 on some days this past week. But the government is still downplaying the disaster, and President Jair Bolsonaro has told people to 'stop whining.'

Bolsonaro tells Brazilians to ‘stop whining’ as COVID-19 death toll rises

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Bolsonaro tells Brazilians to 'stop whining' as COVID-19 death toll rises

Brazil has entered the deadliest phase of the pandemic so far, with the daily death toll exceeding 2,000 on some days this past week. But the government is still downplaying the disaster, and President Jair Bolsonaro has told people to ‘stop whining.’

CBC | World News

Breonna Taylor’s family continues to demand justice 1 year after her death

On the one-year anniversary of Breonna Taylor’s death, the slain Black woman’s family continued their call for justice as hundreds of demonstrators gathered in downtown Louisville, Ky., on Saturday.

“Eyes are on Louisville, Kentucky, today so let’s show America what community looks like,” said Taylor’s aunt, Bianca Austin, who wore her niece’s emergency medical technician jacket.

Austin spoke from a stage set up in Jefferson Square Park, which became an impromptu hub for protesters during months of demonstrations last summer. Flanked by two hand-painted murals of Taylor, activists repeated calls to charge the police officers who killed the Black woman during a raid at her apartment.

The crowd shouted Taylor’s name and “No justice, no peace” as they gathered near an outdoor memorial that includes a mural, posters, artwork and other mementos honouring Taylor’s life. Some organizers gave away food during the speeches.

Taylor’s family then led the protesters on an afternoon march past City Hall.


Members of the protest group known as Bike2Breathe approach the area where the Breonna Taylor memorial protest is occurring in Jefferson Square Park on Saturday. (Jon Cherry/Getty Images)

No officers charged in death

Taylor’s front door was breached by Louisville officers as part of a drug raid in the early morning hours of March 13, 2020. Her boyfriend fired his gun once, saying later that he feared an intruder was entering the apartment. One officer was struck, and he and two other officers fired 32 shots into the apartment, striking the 26-year-old Taylor five times.

Taylor’s death initially flew under the media radar, as the COVID-19 crisis shut down society, but George Floyd’s death in Minnesota and the release of a chilling 911 call from Taylor’s boyfriend in late May sparked interest in the case.


A portrait of Breonna Taylor is seen in front of another protest sign during a protest memorial for her in Jefferson Square Park on Saturday. (Jon Cherry/Getty Images)

A grand jury indicted one officer on wanton endangerment charges in September for shooting into a neighbour’s apartment, but no officers were charged in connection with Taylor’s death.

Police had a no-knock warrant but said they knocked and announced their presence before entering Taylor’s apartment, a claim some witnesses have disputed. No drugs were found in Taylor’s apartment.

The city of Lousiville has since banned no-knock warrants, hired a new police chief and paid a $ 12 million US settlement to Taylor’s family.

An ongoing federal investigation could be wide ranging and is regarded by many as the last chance for justice for Taylor’s death.

WATCH | How the internet worked to keep Breonna Taylor’s name in the news:

The internet worked to keep Breonna Taylor’s name in the news — by turning it into a meme. But does online activism translate to IRL justice? How do those memes serve her memory? Plus: We review Netflix’s new doc phenom, The Social Dilemma. New ep out: http://smarturl.it/popchat 8:32

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U.K. police officer charged with murder, kidnapping in Sarah Everard’s death

British police have charged an officer with the kidnap and murder of 33-year-old Sarah Everard, whose disappearance in London last week has sparked anger and fears among women about their safety.

Constable Wayne Couzens, 48, who guarded diplomatic buildings, will appear in court on Saturday. Everard disappeared while walking home from a friend’s house in south London on March 3.

The Metropolitan police had confirmed that a body found in a wood outside London was that of the missing woman.

Her case has led to an outpouring of personal accounts by women of their own experiences and fears of walking streets alone at night, and a campaign for action to address this.

“The investigation continues of course,” Assistant Commissioner Nick Ephgrave told reporters. “I would like to use this opportunity to encourage anyone that thinks they might have useful information to give, to get in contact with us.”


Police officers search a grassy area behind a house in Deal, U.K., on Friday. (Paul Childs/Reuters)

He had said earlier in the day that he understood the hurt and anger sparked by the case.

“Those are sentiments that I share personally,” Ephgrave said. “I also recognize the wider concerns that are being raised quite rightly about the safety of women in public spaces in London and also elsewhere in the country.”

Home Secretary Priti Patel said she would do all she could to protect women and girls following the outcry that has followed Everard’s disappearance.

“Every woman & girl should be free to walk our streets without the slightest fear of harassment, abuse or violence,” she said on Twitter.

However, police have been criticized by organizers of a planned “Reclaim These Streets” vigil on Saturday near to where Everard was last seen, after officers said it could not take place due to COVID-19 restrictions.

A woman in her 30s, who media said was the partner of Couzens, was released on police bail after having been detained on suspicion of assisting an offender.

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British police officer’s arrest for missing woman Sarah Everard’s death stuns public, politicians

Britain’s most senior police officer has sought to reassure women it is safe to walk the streets of London at night after one of her officers was arrested on suspicion of kidnapping and murdering a 33-year-old woman.

Sarah Everard’s disappearance and the announcement that human remains had been found prompted women to flood social media with posts about the steps they take to keep safe when out alone at night, including clutching keys to use as a weapon and wearing running shoes in case they need to escape.

Others detailed a catalogue of incidents of harassment by men in public over the decades since they were schoolgirls.
“These are so powerful because each and every woman can relate,” Home Secretary Priti Patel said. “Every woman should feel safe to walk on our streets without fear of harassment or violence.”

Everard was last seen at 9:30 p.m. on March 3 as she walked home from a friend’s house in south London. Her image, smiling at the camera or caught on CCTV that evening, has been splashed across British newspapers all week.

‘Women aren’t safe on our streets’

An officer, a man in his 40s whose job it was to guard diplomatic buildings, has been arrested on suspicion of murder, kidnap and indecent exposure, while a woman in her 30s was also detained on suspicion of assisting an offender.

“The disappearance of Sarah and the absolute tragedy around that has really touched a nerve with a lot of women,” said Anna Birley, 31, one of the organizers of a planned Reclaim These Streets vigil to honour Everard and demand change.

“We feel really angry that it’s an expectation put on women that we need to change our behaviour to stay safe. The problem isn’t women, the problem is that women aren’t safe on our streets,” said Birley.


A forensic officer leaves a house in Deal, U.K., in connection with the Everard investigation on Wednesday. (Steve Parsons/PA/The Associated Press)

The London police force has said the officer, who works for the Parliamentary and Diplomatic Protection Command, had not been on duty the night Everard disappeared. Multiple reports from British news outlets indicate his most recent shift before that was at the U.S. embassy.

Cressida Dick, the head of London’s police force, said she and her colleagues were “utterly appalled” at news a serving officer had been arrested, saying it had sent waves of “shock and anger” through the public and the police.

“I know Londoners will want to know that it is thankfully incredibly rare for a woman to be abducted from our streets,” she said.

“But I completely understand that despite this, women in London and the wider public, particularly those in the area where Sarah went missing, will be worried and may well be feeling scared.”

Reaction from a Labour MP:


Police continued to question the officer on Thursday. A woman in her 30s, who media reported was the officer’s wife, was also detained on suspicion of assisting an offender, but has since been released on bail.

England’s police watchdog, the Independent Office for Police Conduct, said it had launched an investigation into the London police force’s handling of the case.

The officer who was arrested was reported to police on Feb. 28 over allegations of indecent exposure in a south London fast food restaurant, several days before Everard disappeared.

Although the remains have not yet been formally identified, Everard’s family released a statement, saying their “beautiful daughter Sarah was taken from us and we are appealing for any information that will help to solve this terrible crime.”

“Sarah was bright and beautiful — a wonderful daughter and sister. She was kind and thoughtful, caring and dependable,” the family said.

Vigil planned for Saturday

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said on Thursday he was shocked and deeply saddened by the developments.

“The message that needs to be sent is that male violence is something that has to be tackled and challenged and the justice system and society has to wake up to that,” said Jess Phillips, the opposition Labour Party’s spokesperson on domestic violence.

“At the moment we just simply don’t take it seriously as we take other crimes.”

Phillips on Thursday read out in the chamber of the House of Commons the names of 118 women killed in the United Kingdom last year in cases in which a man has been charged or convicted. It took her more than four minutes to read the list.


The hashtags #saraheverard and #TooManyMen trended online as women relayed their experiences, prompting men to ask what they should do differently, such as not walking closely behind a woman on her own.

Some pointed out online the concerning drop in prosecutions of sexual assault, though it’s not clear if it is specifically applicable to the Everard case.

Only 1.5 per cent of 57,516 rape cases recorded in England and Wales led to a charge in the year up to September 2020, official data showed last month, with 42 per cent of cases failing due to evidential difficulties, such as victims not supporting further action.

Rape prosecutions hit a record low of 2,102 in 2019-2020, down about 30 per cent year on year, while convictions fell by 25 per cent to 1,439, according to the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS).

Amid warnings the system is failing survivors, the CPS has set out a five-year blueprint to ensure sex offenders are brought to justice, including improving communications with victims and working with police to strengthen cases.

The Reclaim The Streets vigil is set to be held Saturday night at Clapham Common, near the place where Everard was
last seen.

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Significantly higher death rate reported for coronavirus variant first detected in U.K.

A highly infectious variant of the novel coronavirus that has spread around the world since it was first discovered in Britain late last year is between 30 per cent and 100 per cent more deadly than previous dominant variants, researchers said on Wednesday.

In a study that compared death rates among people in Britain infected with the new SARS-CoV-2 variant — known as B117 — against those infected with other variants of the COVID-19-causing virus, scientists said the new variant’s mortality rate was “significantly higher.”

The B117 variant was first detected in Britain in September 2020, and has since also been found in more than 100 other countries.

It has 23 mutations in its genetic code — a relatively high number — and some of them have made it spread far more easily. Scientists say it is about 40 per cent to 70 per cent more transmissible than previous dominant variants that were circulating.

‘A threat that should be taken seriously’

In the U.K. study, published in the British Medical Journal on Wednesday, infection with the new variant led to 227 deaths in a sample of 54,906 COVID-19 patients, compared with 141 among the same number of patients infected with other variants.

“Coupled with its ability to spread rapidly, this makes B117 a threat that should be taken seriously,” said Robert Challen, a researcher at Exeter University who co-led the study.

Independent experts said this study’s findings add to previous preliminary evidence linking infection with the B117 virus variant with an increased risk of dying from COVID-19.

Initial findings from the study were presented to the U.K. government earlier this year, along with other research, by experts on its New and Emerging Respiratory Virus Threats Advisory Group, or NERVTAG, panel.

Lawrence Young, a virologist and professor of molecular oncology at Warwick University, said the precise mechanisms behind the higher death rate of the B117 variant were still not clear, but “could be related to higher levels of virus replication as well as increased transmissibility.”

He warned that the variant was likely fuelling a recent surge in infections across Europe.

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Pope Francis meets father of drowned Syrian boy whose death sparked global outrage

Pope Francis has met with the father of Alan Kurdi, a three-year old Syrian boy who drowned crossing the Mediterranean Sea in 2015 and whose image drew global attention to the plight of refugees fleeing to Europe.

Following a Mass on Sunday in the Iraqi city of Erbil, Francis met with Abdullah Kurdi and spent a long time with him, the Vatican said.

Through an interpreter, the Pope listened to Kurdi’s story and expressed sympathy for the loss of his family. Abdullah thanked the pontiff for his words.

The Kurdi family, who hail from Kobane in Syria, took the route of many Syrian and other migrants by sea in a small boat from Turkey heading for Greece. When their boat capsized, Alan Kurdi, one of his brothers and his mother perished.  The image of Alan’s body, washed up on Turkish shores, came to symbolize the perilous journey to Europe and drew international condemnation. The father now runs a charity in Erbil.

The Canadian government came under fire after it emerged the family had been trying to come to Canada with the help of a relative, Tima Kurdi, who lives in British Columbia.

Pontiff visits Mosul

Pope Francis was also in the Iraqi city of Mosul on Sunday, where he listened to Christian and Muslim residents recount their lives under brutal ISIS rule. Fighters of ISIS, a Sunni militant group that tried to establish a caliphate across the region, ravaged northern Iraq from 2014 to 2017, killing Christians as well as Muslims who opposed them.

Francis flew into the northern city by helicopter to encourage the healing of sectarian wounds and to pray for the dead of any religion.

The 84-year-old Pope saw ruins of houses and churches in a square that was the old town’s thriving centre before Mosul was occupied by ISIS from 2014 to 2017. He sat surrounded by skeletons of buildings, dangling concrete staircases and cratered ancient churches, most too dangerous to enter.


The Pope attends a prayer service Sunday for victims of war with the Chaldean archbishop of Mosul, Najib Mikhael Moussa, left, at Hosh al-Bieaa Church Square in Mosul, Iraq. (Andrew Medichini/The Associated Press)

“Together we say no to fundamentalism. No to sectarianism and no to corruption,” the Chaldean archbishop of Mosul, Najib Mikhael Moussa, told the Pope.

Francis, who is on a historic first trip by a pope to Iraq, was visibly moved by the earthquake-like devastation around him. He prayed for all of Mosul’s dead.

“How cruel it is that this country, the cradle of civilization, should have been afflicted by so barbarous a blow, with ancient places of worship destroyed and many thousands of people — Muslims, Christians, Yazidis and others — forcibly displaced or killed,” he said.


The Pope arrives to hold a minute of silence at what’s left of the centuries-old Al-Tahera (Immaculate Conception) Church near Hosh al-Bieaa Church Square in Mosul on Sunday. (Yara Nardi/Reuters)

“Today, however, we reaffirm our conviction that fraternity is more durable than fratricide, that hope is more powerful than hatred, that peace more powerful than war.”

Intense security has surrounded his trip to Iraq. Military pickup trucks mounted with machine guns escorted his motorcade, and plainclothes security men mingled in Mosul with the handles of guns emerging from black backpacks worn on their chests.

In an apparent direct reference to ISIS, Francis said hope could never be “silenced by the blood spilled by those who pervert the name of God to pursue paths of destruction.”

He then read a prayer repeating one of the main themes of his trip, that it is always wrong to hate, kill or wage war in God’s name.

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How the Black Canadian Coaches Association was born from George Floyd’s death

There is an equation St. FX women’s basketball Lee Anna Osei continually instills in her players. 

It reads E+R=O. Event plus response equals outcome. The idea is that if you respond to an event in the right way, the outcome will turn out favourably.

Osei, known as Coach Lee to her players and friends alike, has witnessed firsthand the lack of minority coaching hires across the Canadian sports landscape.

But that’s more of a long-standing fact than an event. And so a response never followed.

Then George Floyd was killed by a Minneapolis police officer, sparking a worldwide racial reckoning and increased calls for racial justice by the likes of Toronto Raptors president Masai Ujiri, Los Angeles Lakers star LeBron James and Canadian WNBAer Natalie Achonwa.

Those three in particular spurred Osei to a response: the formation of the Black Canadian Coaches Association (BCCA).

“I considered this a passion project to start. But then in realizing the change that it really can have, it’s not just a passion project of mine. It’s a passion project for hundreds of thousands of people,” Osei said.

The BCCA intends to increase opportunities for BIPOC coaches in Canada through its principles of networking, celebration and advocacy through allyship.

CBC Sports visual audit

In July, a CBC Sports visual audit revealed that only about 10 per cent of 400 top positions at 56 Canadian universities are held by a Black person, Indigenous person or person of colour.

“Everyone sees this as a gap that needs to be addressed — not just in Canada. We need to do better. But how we do that is probably the challenging thing right now,” Osei said.

In addition to initiatives such as the Black Female Coach Mentorship Program and The Racial Equity Project, the BCCA plans to maintain numbers on how many coaching positions in Canada are filled by minority candidates. Nothing official on that front currently exists.

Osei says the organization is also hoping to secure funding from the federal government.

Osei, 30, grew up in Toronto’s Jane and Finch neighbourhood. She says she first picked up a basketball “because honestly, it was either a ball or probably something not as positive.”

WATCH | Bring It In’s Black History Month book recommendations:

Morgan Campbell, Meghan McPeak, and Dave Zirin suggest some readings for February as we celebrate Black History Month. 5:08

One of Osei’s first coaching influences was her Grade 6 principal who co-starred as basketball coach. Now, she’s put together a 12-year coaching career herself.

“The most passionate, the most impactful, the most helpful people I’ve met have all been coaches, and that said something about the Canadian context of coaching because there’s not a lot of professional jobs out there,” Osei said.

Corey Grant wants one of those jobs. Currently the offensive co-ordinator of McMaster’s football team, Grant, first and foremost, says he wants the pandemic to end so he can return to the field. 

But the former CFLer would also like to rise the ranks and chart a path for future Black athletes and coaches.

“Representation matters because you want to see what you can be. And sometimes if we’re seeing lack of representation at different levels, especially in coaching and then head coaching, as a player and as a former player, I start to think, ‘Well, maybe I can’t be that head coach.’ As an athlete, you never want to say ‘can’t,’ said Grant.

Grant, 44, grew up in Stoney Creek, Ont., near Hamilton. He spent 11 years as a CFL receiver from 1999-2009 with the Tiger-Cats and Saskatchewan Roughriders, winning a pair of Grey Cups in the process.


Corey Grant says the BCCA is important so that young, prospective Black coaches can see a path to the job. (Courtesy Corey Grant)

In the years since, Grant has begun his coaching career, going from McMaster receivers coach to Tiger-Cats running backs coach and back to McMaster in his current role.

As a player, Grant said his sole focus on playing made him block out the various microaggressions he encounters every day as a Black man.

“Sometimes you shake it off because, hey, I got to focus on the game, I got to focus on practice. And now you start to realize, you know what, that’s not good for your mental health,” Grant said.

High school memory

Certain incidents can’t be blocked out though, such as one high school memory Grant says he recalls like it was yesterday.

It was after a school dance and Grant noticed a crowd packed with screaming people in the parking lot. As he walked towards the noise, some classmates stopped him: “don’t get him,’ they said, “leave him, he’s an athlete.”

“It was some guys wearing swastikas and beat up some South Asian kids and ripped off their turbans and beat them to a pulp in the parking lot. You felt helpless. You couldn’t do anything,” Grant recalled.

Grant went home and punched his garage door out of frustration. It was the only thing he could do.

As assistant director of the BCCA, Grant aims to prevent that feeling of helplessness among Black children — specifically daughter Qiawna, 12, and son Devonn, 10, who are both aspiring athletes.

“It’s doing it through advocacy, through our relationships, through celebration and networking, because sometimes there’s that thought of, ‘it’s just me going through this. Nobody else is there with me. I have to deal with this,’ and then that’s where that mental health piece comes in,” Grant said.


Grant won two Grey Cups as a CFL player with the Hamilton Tiger-Cats and Saskatchewan Roughriders. (The Canadian Press)

Grant’s parents were his first coaching inspirations. Father Lynford was a steel worker and mother Hermine worked various jobs when Corey was growing up, but now runs a nursing home.

Their hard work stuck with Corey, who is the oldest of four siblings, plus two foster sisters and a foster brother.

As a player with the Tiger-Cats, Grant met Bernie Custis, the first Black professional quarterback in the modern era, and first-ever in the CFL.

Custis, who played with NFL Hall of Famer Jim Brown at Syracuse, is also one of few Black head coaches in Ontario University Athletics (OUA) history.

“None of the [current football] head coaches in the OUA are of colour. So then who is having those conversations and leadership position with the players that are on their team? Who is having those conversations about George Floyd, social justice and injustices and equity?”

OUA announces task force

In August, the OUA announced the creation of a Black, biracial and Indigenous task force to emphasize diversity throughout the conference.

The desire to educate is perhaps what drew Grant to Osei and the BCCA. Having one centralized network to disperse information to coaches throughout Canada could become an invaluable tool.

Not to mention the work the BCCA is hoping to do in providing more opportunities for BIPOC coaches.

“Our goal is really simple,” Osei said. “We’re going to use the platform and leverage other organizations and individuals who believe in our mandate to find the very few people of colour in leadership positions and we want to celebrate them and we want other people to know, hey, that can be you.”

Grant watched recently as just two of seven open NFL head coaching positions went to BIPOC candidates. Eric Bienemy, the Black offensive co-ordinator of the Kansas City team going for its second straight Super Bowl, has now been passed over two years in a row.

Grant says how Bienemy handled that adversity is something he’s drawing from as he waits for his own head coaching opportunity to arise.

“I’m not satisfied with where I’m at, but I’m content right now with where I’m at,” Grant said. “I’m going to continue to move forward. And when it’s my time, I’m going to be ready to shine.”

Since May, a common reprieve in the fight for social justice is that the conversation can’t be left as a moment — it must be a movement.

Osei takes that one step further.

“It’s not a movement. It’s a lifestyle. It’s understanding that this system was built on systemic oppression. And there are so many tangible ways that can combat it.”

“We’re not pointing the blame here. We’re just stating a fact.”

With the BCCA, Osei’s response to systemic racism in Canada is well underway. And if E+R=O holds firm, a positive outcome should follow.

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Surging in remote and poor areas, Brazil’s COVID-19 death toll is 2nd-highest in the world

It was late at night and a chaotic crowd had gathered in front of a hospital in Manaus, the biggest city in Brazil’s vast Amazon and the last hope for medical care for tens of thousands of COVID-19 patients in the region. 

Doctors shouted patients’ names, working their way down an impossibly long list while the sick and their families jostled through the jammed emergency entrance.

“Where is the help?” yelled Priscila Carvalho, whose mother lay on a respirator inside, in Portuguese to a cluster of TV cameras.

“People are dying here! It’s not a game!”

The scene was captured on video earlier this month by Reuters as cases continued to surge in the city of 2.2 million people.

Indeed, the death rate in that part of Brazil is more than 170 per 100,000 residents, three and a half times Canada’s. Nationally, deaths have topped 215,000, putting Brazil’s toll second only to the United States. It has the third-highest number of coronavirus cases after the U.S. and India, at more than nine million.


Priscila Carvalho, 31, reacts outside the 28 de Agosto hospital where her mother is hospitalized in Manaus. (Bruno Kelly/Reuters)

Freshly dug graves fill new cemeteries in Manaus and beyond, stretching to the horizon and growing quickly.

“Over the past two weeks, we’ve seen a sharp increase,” said Pierre Van Heddegem, the head of a mission run by Doctors Without Borders in the region, in a Skype interview with CBC News. 

“Fifty to 60 per cent of the people we test, test positive. That’s a huge amount.”

New, more contagious variant hits hard

That’s partially the result of a new strain of COVID-19 first detected in Brazil, a more contagious and possibly more deadly variant of the virus, known as P1. Research done by immunologist Ester Sabino at the University of Sao Paolo suggests that P1 accounted for 42 per cent of new cases in the Amazon’s biggest centre since last month.

“Everything points to this variant being behind the way the pandemic is evolving in Manaus,” Sabino told Reuters.

Experts on the ground say the spread is so rapid — and the government’s response so inadequate — it’s overwhelming doctors, nurses and hospitals.


Osmar Magalhaes, 68, gets care for COVID-19 at home in Manaus on Jan. 20 from his daughter and son. They are treating him an air tank at home due to the lack of oxygen in the public health system. (Bruno Kelly/Reuters)

Doctors Without Borders is struggling to find places for severe cases that need to be sent from the two smaller communities they are helping, São Gabriel da Cachoeira and Tefé, both several days’ boat journey from Manaus.

“If the system collapses in Manaus, this whole population of the interior of the Amazon will not have access to necessary higher levels of care, with potentially grave consequences,” said Van Heddegem.

Scenes of desperation

Local factors make conditions there ripe for the virus’ spread. Indigenous communities have large households, poor access to health care and little reliable information. And even in large centres like Manaus with more substantial medical facilities, huge distances and inadequate roads make it hard to bring in supplies or experts.


Kelvia Andrea Goncalves, 16, is supported by her aunt as she reacts during the burial of her mother Andrea dos Reis Brasao, 39, who died because of COVID-19 at Delphina Aziz hospital in Manaus on Jan. 17. (Bruno Kelly/Reuters)

All 650 of the region’s ICU beds have been full, and airlifts of critical patients to other Brazilian centres are slow — no more than a handful of people fit on transport planes brought in by the air force.

Oxygen supplies for the sick have all but run out as scenes of desperation spread online: five patients sharing a single tank in a hospital room, the infected suffocating to death and distraught nurses crying after losing patients. Long lines have been forming in Manaus and other centres, with families desperate to fill empty oxygen tanks for sick relatives at home.


Relatives of patients hospitalized or receiving health care at home, who are mostly suffering from COVID-19, gather to buy oxygen and fill cylinders at a private company in Manaus on Jan. 18. (Bruno Kelly/Reuters)

Meanwhile, teams of mortuary workers in hazmat suits have been patrolling the city to pick up bodies of those who die in their own beds, after being turned away from hospitals.

‘The risk is yours’

Brazil started a vaccination campaign in the past two weeks with fanfare, photo-ops and a declaration from Health Minister Eduardo Pazuello that “Brazil has made it” and promising “the largest vaccination campaign in the world!”

In fact though, the country is struggling to get even a tiny fraction of the vaccines it needs, with delays from suppliers in China and India. Initial doses were only enough for about 6 million people out of a population of 213 million. 

Many in the hardest hit areas — including the Amazon and Rio de Janeiro — have been eagerly awaiting the vaccine to stop the spread of COVID-19. But Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro has not only declared he won’t be getting the shot, he’s cast doubt on its safety. 

“The risk is yours,” he said earlier this month. “If you turn into an alligator, that’s your problem.”


Demonstrators take part in a protest against Brazil’s president, Jair Bolsonaro, and his handling of the coronavirus disease outbreak in Brasilia on Jan. 24. (Adriano Machado/Reuters)

Two tiers of care

In the favelas of Rio, the densely packed slums on the outskirts of Brazil’s second-largest city, the crisis grows.

“It’s getting very much worse every day,” Dr. Gustavo Treistman told CBC News over Skype from Rio.

He works in the Souza Marques Family Clinic in Madureira, a poor neighbourhood where some 200 people die daily.

Treistman says he sees 30 to 40 patients who have COVID-19 during every six-hour shift, sending the serious ones to hospital by ambulance when he can and seeing some die when he can’t. Most are sent home.


The slums of Rio, such as Alemao, above, have been hit hard by the coronavirus. (Ricardo Moraes/Reuters)

“We don’t have the equipment to treat patients,” he said, with frustration in his voice.

At the same time, the government has refused to take other needed steps, he said, such as ordering lock-downs or giving financial support for the sick to stay home from work.

“I feel very sad, very angry sometimes. And very tired every day. It’s just too much for all of us,” he said.

Treistman blames Brazil’s high death rate on living conditions that make it hard for the poor to avoid COVID-19 and a two-tier health care system that favours the rich. 


Volunteers disinfect a road at the Santa Marta favela in April 2020. (Mauro Pimentel/AFP via Getty Images)

Brazilians who can afford ICU beds in private hospitals are almost twice as likely to survive COVID-19 infections than those who end up in the public hospital system, according to data from the Brazil Society of Intensive Care. Since last March, mortality rates in public hospitals were 51 per cent of ICU patients, compared to 28 per cent in private hospitals.

But with infections spreading so rapidly, Treistman says now everyone in Brazil is at risk.


Relatives of patients hospitalized with the coronavirus outbreak in Manaus, Brazil, react on Jan. 15. The ICU beds in the region are full, and oxygen supplies are running low while a new, more contagious variant is spreading in the Amazon region. (Bruno Kelly/Reuters)

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London, Ont., teen struggled with COVID-19 symptoms in days leading to his death, father says

The father of a London, Ont., teen who died Thursday after being diagnosed with COVID-19 says his son died at home after being treated as a day patient in hospital earlier this month. 

Ahmad Dabeh said his 19-year-old son Yassin was diagnosed with COVID-19 in the second week of January. He said Yassin went to a London emergency room complaining of chest pains and difficulty breathing on more than one occasion, but was never admitted to hospital.

During these visits, his son was treated with oxygen and released after a few hours, he said.

Dabeh was speaking at a news conference he held Tuesday via online video, in part to address rumours circulating online that his son’s death was caused by something other than COVID-19. 

“These are rumours and they are hurtful to our family and to Yassin,” he said, at the news conference, speaking Arabic and answering reporters’ questions through a translator. 

He said his family is grieving the loss of a “very loving and compassionate” young man.

Yassin worked as a cleaner at Middlesex Terrace, a long-term care home just outside of London in Delaware, Ont., that has been dealing with a COVID-19 outbreak.

Dabeh did not say what days his son went to hospital, but that Yassin was diagnosed with COVID-19 in the second week of January.

On Thursday, Yassin complained of difficulty breathing and chest pain, Dabeh said. That evening, the family was unable to wake him up after he fell asleep, he said.

Dabeh said the family called 911 on the night his son died. Paramedics tried to revive Yassin but the teen was pronounced dead that evening, he said. 

Dabeh said he believes medical staff gave their son the best treatment they could. 

“At the end of the day, it’s God who decides,” he said. 

Yassin was buried the day after his death. Dabeh and other family members were not able to attend the burial because they are now positive for COVID-19. 

On Monday, the Middlesex-London Health Unit said there would be no further investigation into Yassin’s death. 

Yassin’s death made national news because of the more than 19,000 Canadians who’ve died of COVID-19, he is one of only three people younger than 19. 

He was a Syrian refugee who moved to Canada with his family in 2016.

Dabeh said he wanted “the best future” for himself and his eight children and said he’s “very grateful” to the people of Canada for helping his family have a better life here. 

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